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Review: TRINE
by Jacques Hulme

Back in the day, platformers were all the rage. Every arcade was full of them - and some were really good. However, recently - bar the Mario popularity - they're all but gone. So it's nice that FrozenByte have decided that we need a new one.

TRINE is a side-scrolling, action-based platformer. Originally released for PC, with a DVD edition and a downloadable version from Valve's ever-popular Steam service, TRINE became an unexpected success. So much so, in fact, that they decided that a PlayStation Network version was in order.

If you're typically a side-scrolling gamer, the first thing you'll notice is the upgrade in graphics. Say the last platformer you played was Super Mario Bros 2: you'll be taken back by the eye watering visuals of TRINE as compared to that. It's as vibrant as a multicoloured tiger (yep, that's right. A multicoloured tiger) and, towards the end, just as difficult. The lighting system has been thoroughly developed and perfected. If you're running through a wood thicket, the odd dash of light will fall through the leaves above. And this fantastical lighting carries through to inside settings just as well.

Be you in a huge, towering corridor or swinging above lava, you'll always feel dwarfed by your surroundings. In some ways, I wonder if the characters are, in fact, tiny - even the mushrooms dominate you. It feels like fantasy; like the worlds in your head. And, more importantly, it has what every good fantasy should include - epic scale. The calming soothingness is carried between levels purely through the voice of the narrator. It's the kind of voice you want to fill your dreams with, calming yet commanding - TRINE's fantastical world is made complete with the narration. It also includes an interesting plot line and a cool little twist half way through.

My first outing with TRINE was the PC demo. Unfortunately, originally it didn't fill me with hope. I struggled with the controls and barely made it through the demo. I'm happy to report, however, that things are a lot better with the PSN port. Perhaps it's because I'm used to a controller, but whatever it is, it's really made a difference. TRINE's a smooth experience, in all - you utilise your characters skills (3 people, magically converted into one) to try and rid the world of evil and split yourself into three bodies again. The three characters include a wizard, knight and thief. Each has a speciality that has to be used to get passed certain objects. The thief has a bow to fight, is light on her feet and can make use of a grapple to reach those out of sight areas. The warrior, on the other hand, makes use of his awesome sword and shield to protect himself. Lastly, the wizard can create a number of objects, a box, plank and hovering triangle, to reach the next area.

Combat is your simple, hit-guard-kill affair. The knight is a good staring point but as soon as you unlock the thief's tri-shot, you'll start using her instead. She really becomes unstoppable then as almost, except from bosses, every enemy dies from one or two hits. The wizard himself can't directly kill anyone but he is able to drop an item on an enemy, causing him to explode. In terms of enemies, there are a few standard types - ordinary skeleton swordsman, swordsman with wood shield, swordsman with steel shield, long-swords, archers, spiders and bats. The spiders, bats and archers are easily the most annoying. Spiders are impossible to get to with the warrior if they're higher than one jump, archers always knock you off a platform you're climbing, and bats never stop! Thankfully, as you progress you'll be able to unlock new abilities for the team. Unlocks include new items for the wizard to create, flaming arrows(perfect for one shot one kills), and a massive hammer. Each time you collect 50 points of xp, you'll get another point to spend on abilities.

TRINE comes with a single player mode and a co-op - however, there's no online co-op. A slight disappointment perhaps, but one that is made up by the single player campaign. A clever level design means that even if one of your players falls to his/her death, you can still get past obstacles. For example, without the thief's grapple a jump may seem impossible, but you could also just bridge the gap with a wizard's plank. There are, of course, some points that need a certain skill, but these are usually near a 'life orb'/spawn point. There's also some tricky obstacles that need a bit of skill to pass. You may even get stuck for a little while, but as soon as you've worked out how to cross 'that spike pit', you'll always know how to do it.

The physics in the game are the main point of concentration, but that's not to say the story isn't any good. Infact, its better than most. After your initial training in the Astral Academy, you'll go out into the wide world in search of a way to split your characters. It does feel like an extract from a Pratchett book - plenty of comedy and an extravaganza of fantasy. It might not be a really challenging game, but it does make up for it in almost every other way. If this game was long and had enough variety, you could play through the night and get transported into your own little fantasy world.

So, TRINE is a beautiful game, but perhaps a little too simple in areas. You'll certainly enjoy what there is, and what there is - well, it's quite a lot. In total there's 15 levels which each take approx 40mins to an hour per level. If you're after those trophies (and why wouldn't you be? It's the first PSN Platinum!) then there are alot of silvers. There are also some tricky ones - 'Better than the Developers!' in which you need to complete the last level without dying is particularly difficult! The beautiful world will certainly satisfy your eyes, whereas the side-scrolling will satisfy your nostalgia. It may not do anything too radical, but the physics are awesome and the fighting is above average. You might not pay much attention to the music but its nice if you do give it a listen. Superb voice acting, the wizards suave voice and the knight's comical extracts are great. At £15.99 from the PlayStation Network, there's no reason why you should pass up on buying this. Unless you hate fantasy-based side-scrollers with wizards in which you conjure planks in a beautiful world in order to beat evil and return your characters to their three individual forms. If you don't like the idea of that - TRINE might not be the buy for you.


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- Jacques Hulme

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